By Dons Eze, PhD
At the height of the ongoing #EndSARS protests rocking various parts of the country demanding the scrapping or disbandment of the notorious police unit called the Special Anti-robbery Squad (SARS), we pleaded with our President to talk to us, he did not hear.
Some political activists, civil society organizations, religious leaders and traditional rulers, joined the queue and asked the President to harken to the voice of the people and talk to the nation, he put up a deaf ear.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo together with some other notable individuals in the country added their voices and advised the President to talk to his people, he kept mute.
The press amplified these voices and stressed the need for the President, as father of the nation, to speak to Nigerians, he did not say anything.
The National Assembly, after assessing the situation on ground, came up with a resolution requesting the President to address the nation, he finally caved in.
We thank our President for being so magnanimous and finally accepted to talk to us. We thank him for being a “democrat”, and a “listening President”, by bowing to pressures and talked to us.
We finally thank him for his beautiful and flowery speech, even if at the end of the day, he succeeded in saying anything tangible. Our President spoke as demanded, but in the end said nothing. You can take a horse to the stream, but you cannot force it to drink water.
We asked our President to talk to us, he agreed, talked to us, but at the end, said nothing. He did not say anything different from what we have been hearing before. We call this a “speechless speech”.
Our President told us that he ordered for the scrapping of SARS (Special Anti-robbery Squad). This, we already heard before, even when they replaced SARS with SWAT (Special Weapon and Tactics Team). A bird that flew out from the ground and perched on an anthill is still on the ground. In other words, we do not see any difference between SARS and SWAT. They are one and the same thing.
Our President equally told us that “government has put in place measures and initiatives principally targeted at youths, women and the most vulnerable groups in our society”. We commend him for that. But he quickly added that such measures would include “broad plan to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in the next 10 years”.
He said this before, but our worry is that perhaps President Muhammadu Buhari may be planning to extend his tenure beyond 2023. Otherwise, why is he talking about lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in the next 10 years, when he has barely two-and-half years to go?
Again, we may even ask: how many people has the administration of President Buhari lifted out of poverty for the past five-and-half years it has held sway? We may not categorically answer it, but all we know is that Nigeria has been declared the headquarters of world poverty since his advent, which is unfortunate.
We equally note that none of the promises previously made by our President, which he repeated in his so-called speech to the nation, has manifested, or come to real life. Among these were *”paying salaries of the staff of 100,000 micro, small, and medium enterprises *paying for the registration of 250,000 businesses at the Corporate Affairs Commission, *giving a grant of N30,000 to 100,000 artisans, and *guaranteeing market for the products of traders”. They all ended with the ink with which these words were written.
“Farmermoni, Tradermoni, Marketmoni, N-Power, N-Tech, N-Agro”, which our President had reeled out in his flowery speech, as programmes introduced by his administration to fight poverty, are mere poverty alleviation jargons that mean nothing in the lives of the people, because many of them have never seen the light of day.
The 774,000 public works, which the government had promised long ago, are not forthcoming, or have been hijacked at the highest level of government. The same goes for the N-Power programme, which our graduates have been waiting for, since the past six months.
Our public universities have been under lock and key for the past eight months, and the government is not doing anything meaningful to reopen them. In other words, if our youths are not busily engaged, why wouldn’t they be in the streets, demonstrating, even if the government were to turn all their guns on them?
The President had also told us that his administration would create “N75 billion National Youth Investment Fund to provide opportunities for the youths and the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) Survival Fund”. Very beautiful. We have equally heard this several times.
But how many people are actually benefitting from this scheme, and who are the really beneficiaries? We hope that they are not the privileged few who have connections with people at the top echelon of the administration, or that they are not people from one particular section of the country.
Actually, President Muhammadu Buhari had at last spoken to the nation as we all had demanded, following the #EndSARS protests. But he did not come near the real demands of the youths, which pushed them out to the streets. He left everything hanging. We pray, let this timebomb not explode.